Seren on Saturdays. The Making of the Great British Pie What Pie shall I choose?…A Noble Affair too

By Seren Charrington Hollins

Seren filming with the Hairy Bikers & the Late Dave Myers.

For the past week pies have been on my mind, it’s not some sort of new diet fad or even a craving, instead my obsession with pies is because British Pie Week runs from 4th March until 10th March and at the heart of this week is the British Pie Awards, where pies from around the country are judged by pie experts and all  the results revealed on 8th March, although class winners get to find out a little earlier.

There are many discussions on Britain’s national dish, from traditional Roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding to Fish and Chips and even pizza or curry! However I believe that the Great British Pie should be among those discussions and has stood the test of time over the years and should still be ranked as our national dish. Together with it’s long history, good looks and gorgeous flavours it should still be ranked at the top!

Pies in all their guises and forms can still be ranked among the top for our ‘comfort foods’ especially when the days are dark and we want a meal which will warm us. There is of course the debate over whether savoury pies should be served with mash or chips, but a good pie in my opinion can be served with pretty much anything.

Here is an image of the pie I have entered into the British Pie Awards, it is a lemon pie with a buttermilk pastry

There are many types of pies, Sweet or Savoury, the standard pie in some form of a dish with pastry on the bottom, usually blind baked then the filling added with a pastry topping, usually filled with sweet or savoury fillings. You can also choose a pie topped with mashed potato, usually used for Cottage pie or Shepherds pie. Additionally there are pork pies which are generally known as ‘raised’ pies and this method can also be used for Meat pies too.

Sweet and Savoury standard pies are made in an oven proof dish and would often include fruit fillings, but can include items such as chocolate too! This method can also be used for meat and vegetarian fillings. These are normally made by placing pastry on the bottom and sides of the dish and then ‘blind baking’ to ensure that the pastry below the surface doesn’t become soggy when cooked. All that is required is to place the pastry around the sides and on the bottom having greased the dish so that the pastry will come out easier. The filling is then added and then pastry placed on the top before placing in the oven.

Cottage and Shepherds Pies can have the fillings added and then are usually topped with mashed potato afterwards. The filling will normally already be cooked and then the mashed potato cooked before adding as the topping. Although, you won’t find any potato topped pies judged in The Great British Pie Awards,  indeed the rules are strict, stating that only pies that encase a filling completely in pastry will be judged, so no lattice tops and no potato toppings!

Traditional English pub chicken pot pie

Pork pies are a more complex pie to make and is known as a raised pie. Of course the contents are pork shoulder, jellied stock and involves the making of a warm dough which is moulded. The raised pork pie is something to be savoured in both the making and eating too. There are many different recipes available to suit different tastes but all go well and make a delicious pie that can be accompanied with pickles to make a super supper. The making of the pie is reminsicent of pottery classes in making the raised pie crust. Many of our raised pies are a gourmet delight and are in the style of the famous Melton Mowbray Pie.

A Noble pie is one that is made for a special occasion. These pies are steeped in history and they go back to the days when the pie pastry was a mere container to protect the delicious filling. They use a hot water pastry which is sturdy enough to absorb the meat juices and fat during the cooking, but remail crisp on the exterior.

Many of the Great British Pies that we make can be celebrated, by entering the Great British Pie Awards. This is an annual competition and the judging takes place in Melton Mowbray, the home of the Pork Pie. I have entered over the past few years with notable successes in some and not others. Why not google the Great British Pie awards and see for yourself?

Whatever Pie you choose you can be assured that when it is served it will all be consumed with glee, particularly if you are looking for that ‘ comfort food’!  Afterall, no one can resist a good pie.

I made a ox tongue pie for the Dave Myers and his fellow Hairy Biker, Si King back in 2015 this was for a seried called Pubs that Built Britain. I was called in to talk about traditional pub grub and as part of that Dave Myers and Si King tried the pie and I have lovely memories of our discussions on and off camera about the rise of pub food. So in memory of that happy day filming some nine years ago here is my ox tongue pie recipe:

Ox Tongue Pie


1 whole ox tongue which should weigh approx 1 -1.5 kg

1 tbsp. of salt

1/2 tsp. of pinkeppercorns

1  brown onion

half a clove of garlic

2 bay leaves

75g butter

1 kg Selection of vegetables – ideal candidates are celery, potatoes, carrots, leeks

230ml double cream

1 tbsp. of chopped flat-leaf parsley


Shortcrust Pastry to top Pie

Egg beaten for egg-washing pastry


  1. Ox tongue requires a long, slow cook. I recommend putting the tongue in the slow cooker with around 300ml water of water, the salt, peppercorns, onion, garlic and bay leaves. Cook in the slow cooker for two hours on high before turning it down and cooking for seven hours on low. It can be cooked in a lidded casserole dish in a low oven and this will require 8 -9 hours cooking in a low shelf of the oven.
  2. Once cooked leave it to cool in the slow cooker or casserole
  3. Once the tongue is cool, peel off its coarse skin. If the tongue has been sufficiently cooked, the skin will come away easily.
  4. Retain the cooking liquor
  5. To assemble and bake the pie, cut the ox tongue into one-inch cubes. Chop all the vegetables that you’re using to roughly the size of the meat.
  6. Heat the butter in a frying pan. Add the root vegetables and cook adding onions, leeks etc part way through the cooking process.
  7. When the vegetables are al dente add the cubed tongue and cook, tossing often, until the meat is heated through.
  8. Turn off the heat. Transfer the meat and vegetables into a pie dish Cool. You need to cool the pie filling before laying on the crust.
  9. When the filling has cooled, preheat the oven to 180 0c
  10. Pour the cooking liquor into a saucepan, add the cream and heat, thicken with a tsp of cornflour mixed to a paste if necessary. Set aside to cool
  11. Pour the cooled sauce over the pie filling
  12. Roll out the shortcrust and cover the pie dish.
  13. Cut a steam hole in the pie crust and brush with egg wash
  14. . Place in pre-heated oven. Bake until the filling is hot and bubbly and the crust is nicely browned — 40-45 minutes.



  • Seren Charrington Hollins

    Seren runs a catering business and delicatessen in Mid Wales, but she is not your run of the mill caterer or deli owner. She is a mother of six and an internationally recognised food historian who has created banquets and historical dinner parties for private clients and television. Her work has been featured on the BBC, ITV & Channel 4 and she has appeared in BBC4’s Castle’s Under Siege, BBC South's Ration Book Britain, Pubs that Built Britain with The Hairy Bikers, BBC 2’s Inside the Factory, BBC 2’s The World’s Most Amazing Hotels, the Channel 4 series Food Unwrapped and Country Files Autumn Diaries. Her work has also been featured in The Guardian, The Times, Sunday Times, Daily Mail and The Telegraph. Her two most recent books are 'Revolting Recipes from History' and 'A Dark History of Tea'

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *